In 1998 Russian scientists began drilling into the ice which covered a huge lake called Vostok. So far they have managed to drill to a depth of nearly 3700 metres. The lake lies a further 100 metres deeper. The scientists think that they will complete the work in 2006.
American researchers and also scientists all over the world are eagerly following the progress of the Vostok Lake . However, the Americans unlike their other colleagues cannot cope with the idea that it is the Russians who are leading the project at the site of the ancient waters. Scientists from the USA have been giving out threats in order to stop the work. A gas explosion over the lake has brought much criticism to Russia. As a result, ancient viruses have been released which could lead to terrible pandemics.
They are spreading rumours that the Russian are not obeying essential safety measures when carrying out the drilling and consequently they may poison the clean waters hidden beneath the thick ice.
Scientists believe that the lake is comparable in size to Lake Ontario in North America but its depth is more than 800 metres. It has existed beneath the ice for more than 10 million years. They hope to find living organisms in the lake which they will then be able to compare to life on earth. Similar research can prove worthwhile in confirming theories about life on the icy plant Jupiter and also on other planets in the solar system.
Western scientists fear that the Russians are using dangerous liquids made of kerosene and freon. There are microbes in these liquids which penetrate through the ice. If the liquid flows into the lake, there is no way of knowing how many micrograms of the liquid were in the water before the drillings began. A scientific research body in Antarctica , an international organization, situated in Cambridge, approached the Russians and asked them to cease work on the drilling until such a time as research had been carried out. The Russians replied by saying that they had already successfully carried out tests in Greenland and no damage was done to the lake.
“I am convinced that the drilling will not have any effect on the water of the lake,” announced the Vostok project manager Valeri Lukin.
He acknowledges that ten years ago they were only 130-150 metres away from the lake but work was stopped because of the danger of equipment contaminating the lake. The scientific world has spoken of this danger many times. The Russian Ministry of Science announced that the drilling work is not dangerous. The equipment used was checked by the St. Petersburg Gorny Institute and the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute. In 2001-2003 the equipment was the subject of much discussion at meetings about Antarctica .
The equipment hardly lets any kerosene or freon contaminate the waters of the lake. Water will in factual fact not be taken from this lake but a lower one. Russian scientists hope that they will be able to continue the drill hole from 2004-2005 and reach the lake’s water in 2006-2007.
Translated by Michael Simpson